Review: Pizza and All That Jazz

I sell the customer what I think he ought to have rather than what he thinks he wants.Peter Boizot

I love, love, love pizza! Back home my go to causal family dining restaurant is PizzaExpress. The restaurants are so popular in the UK, found on every high street and in every shopping mall, there’s even pre-prepared products available to buy and cook at home from the supermarkets. In exciting news for the Abu Dhabi dining scene (and especially me), we now have our very own Jazz@PizzaExpress right here in the capital.

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After the success of the pizza and jazz concept at Jumeriah Lake Towers (JLT) in Dubai, an Abu Dhabi location has been opened right in the heart of the city at the top of The Mall at World Trade Centre. Jazz@PizzaExpress has all the trademarks that we all know and love, simple freshly made Italian inspired classics using the best ingredients complimented by a range of beverages from the licenced bar and live music from resident band, Uptown.

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The other half and I were invited to attend the launch party and enjoyed a night of all things PizzaExpress. Dough balls, pastas, salads with my favourite PizzaExpress house dressing, a complete range of delicious pizzas and a creamy tiramisu washed down with a glass of red while listening to fantastic music, perfecto.

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Now PizzaExpress may not be considered fine dining but it certainly has its place in people’s heart. The trademark open kitchen houses the monochrome striped clad chefs known as Pizzaiolos, always busy spinning dough and creating pizzas. We even had a dough spinning demo from three of the chefs as part of the launch party’s entertainment.

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Celebrating fifty years since the first PizzaExpress opened in London’s Wardour Street, Soho in 1965, founder and foodie Peter Boizot realised his dream to create tasty Italian style pizza straight from Naples and make it available on the high street. His passion for his brand saw PizzaExpress become one of the first restaurant chains to adopt open kitchens and expand into quirky locations such as old churches, banks and dairies. The popular brand took their concept one step further with the combination of art and music which saw the evolvement of Jazz@PizzaExpress. The Abu Dhabi jazz concept is only the third of its kind worldwide, along with the aforementioned original Soho, London and Dubai venues.

Local group Uptown have taken up residency as the house band, performing their own energetic blend of funk, soul, jazz, latin and pop every night in some form or another. If the opening party’s vibe is anything to go by, they certainly provide lively entertainment with their setlist of classics that you can’t help tapping your foot and singing along to. As a licensed venue, which unusual in a mall Jazz@PizzaExpress offers guests a range of cocktails, beers, fine wines and even champagne to be enjoyed with your choice of pizza or pasta.

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Boizot is a vegetarian and this restaurant ticks my veggie box, my favourite menu item is the healthy option Leggera (Italian for lighter) pizza, lower in saturated fats and a much lighter option than the regular pizzas at less than 500 calories. The pizza has a whole cut from the centre which is filled with a wild rocket and shaved ricotta salad, topped with a balsamic dressing, chopped basil and mint, however I prefer to swap the dressing for the house variety as I love it so much, I have bottles of it in my kitchen (I used to bring it home from the UK until it was sold here in Lulu supermarket).

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Another popular menu choice is the Romana, made with stretched dough, the base much bigger, thinner, and crispier which gives the ingredients that extra zing, allowing the flavours to burst through. The classic pizza choices offer all the favourites including the popular American Hot and you can even personalise your pizza! Starters, salads, calzone, pastas, sides and desserts make up the menu, spoilt for choice is an understatement. If you like spicy food, the Calabrese pizza inspired by the Italian town of Calabria is dubbed the hottest item on the menu combining spicy Italian sausage, finely chopped green chilies, roquito peppers, red and yellow peppers, baby mozzarella, wild rocket, pesto, oregano and parmesan, one for the more brave among us!

In more good news, Jazz@PizzaExpress Abu Dhabi has introduced a Friday Brunch with unlimited food, house beverages, bubbly and live music from Uptown at a very reasonable AED 229 per person. If you are a pizza fan, this may be your new favourite Friday haunt.

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Pizza is the world’s most successful mass-market convenience food so it’s no surprise PizzaExpress has done so well over the past fifty years. Jazz@Pizza Express claims to offer four simple things. Beautiful music, stunning design, exceptional food and a unique experience. Pizza in Style, made fresh from the moment you order. I can confirm all of the above, this British high street favourite is a welcome addition to the capital’s dining scene, I for one will be a regular customer.

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Jazz@PizzaExpress Abu Dhabi

Location: The Mall at World Trade Centre

Telephone: 02 444 7752

See the full Jazz@PizzaExpress Abu Dhabi menu here

Website: www.pizzaexpressuae.com

Facebook: jazzpizzaexpressabudhabi/Twitter: @PizzaExpressuae/Instagram: Pizzaexpressuae

I was invited to attend this event. All the views are my own. Unless otherwise stated all photos on this page copyright Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved. Photos 1, 4, 8 & 9 used courtesy of pizzaexpressuae. Photo 2 used courtesy of Facebook:jazzpizzaespressuae and photo 7 used courtesy of pizzaexpress.com